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After a slow build-back from injury, it felt so great to be out racing again at an official Vancouver Island Race Series event. And what a great first race to come back to!
The first of its kind, the McLean Mill 10K on April 2nd. It is a scenic course set against stunning mountains with an epic start and finish at the old McLean Mill, a national historic site. Having never been to McLean Mill, I had no idea it was such a cool place to visit, let alone race. Nestled within the forest, the start line begins at the entrance to the historic site and weaves down along a rustic dirt road before merging onto the main paved road.
McLean Mill 10K race start with Mark Cryderman (left) and Jonathan Walker (right) leading the pack (Photo credit: Joseph Camilleri)
The first four kilometres are an undulating yet relatively straight and slightly net downhill stretch with only a couple of turns. I went out for the lead with the goal being to practice my A-goal pace for TC10K, and pretty soon found myself in solo territory. I kept focus on the bike marshal in front of me and dug in. By halfway, I realized my pacing was a bit ambitious and knew I’d be in for a wild ride! And that it was, grinding a positive split into the second half over a fairly hilly net uphill stretch to the finish. While this wasn’t the day to reach my A-goal, I was very pleased with the overall feeling and satisfaction that came with an all-out effort. Of course, a debut course record and the win was also fun too!
The key learning I took away from this race was the importance of controlled pacing based on my current fitness (not goal fitness). I learned quickly that I’m not in 32:30 shape, and that was humbling! But by not forcing the pace too soon in a race, I think we can all give ourselves a better chance at reaching our goals with time. “Stay smooth, controlled, and let the pace come” will be my mantra next time.
So yes, lessons were learned at the McLean Mill 10K, but not only that, there was amazing post-race food, local craft beer, and great times reconnecting with the awesome Island Race Series community. Big shoutout to Port Alberni for hosting a great event, and gratitude to Sean Mitchell and the Prairie Inn Harriers for the carpool and great chats with the Prairie Inn Harrier lads to and from the race!
With the comeback from injury, my coach suggested I choose either the McLean Mill 10K or the Westcoast Sooke 10K. I would have loved to do Sooke, but the timing worked best for McLean and I am happy with that decision.
Next up – Bazan Bay 5K!
Well this was a first…
I was late to the start line! Some may argue they are late to the finish line but mine was a bit of both on the day of the Hatley Castle 8K at Royal Roads University. Having said that, this is not what my message is about. My message is about making choices in life and remembering to make them based on your “whys.”
Yes, I arrived late to the start line and at that moment I had a choice: run, walk, or turnaround and go home.
I knew when I arrived the timing would be tight. I realized quickly as I meandered through an unfamiliar campus, that the likelihood of me arriving on time was gone. It was confirmed when I showed up at 11:06 am to a very lonely start line that I was definitely late. I crossed with no noise made so then I made the choice to run to the timing van to see if it was “okay” to still run. I was answered with a quick, “if you crossed the line, you are being timed.”
I had a choice…
My decision took no time at all — run Mena run! That’s what I signed up to do, that’s why I drove out there, that’s why I signed up for the Vancouver Island Race Series and that’s why I pinned on my bib! I had made a choice to be a part of something. Does it really matter what your numerical time is (okay — I am a runner at heart so I will say I do love numbers) BUT — what’s really important is the time that you experience and I was about to enjoy a very special time throughout this event; one that was unexpected. It was an experience like no other and full of awesome realizations. I didn’t see anyone for about 500 metres except a photographer that really had no choice but to shoot my smirk of desperation to find a crowd of people somewhere in the distance. Then I came across a powerful walker who quickly informed me that they had come out to walk no matter what position they finished in. Their smile was full of pride and confidence — this was cool.
Then I passed a couple of familiar faces on the out and back, but typically I would be on the “other side” of them, they were thrilled to see that I had showed up. Despite where I was, and what joking was shared, they made me feel a part. I witnessed people of all ages, stages, and abilities push up hills and push through pain. It was clearly demonstrated that there wasn’t a single person I passed that was not working their hardest. Each of these walkers and runners had made the choice to show up and do the best that they can.
Every finish line is special and in this case on this day, I cannot imagine missing the opportunity to run downhill through a beautiful forested area to the sound of cheers and encouragement.
So as we near a new and exciting course — the McLean Mill 10K — think about why you “show up.” Make choices based on your whys. Don’t worry about your time in performance but the potential of the experience. I want to be a part of a community, a part of the run community, a part of the Vancouver Island Race Series. I want to feel strong, athletic and physically fit. I want to feel that sense of accomplishment when I cross the finish line.
Thank you to the crew of the Island Race Series for providing me a space to make choices to participate and to feel like an athlete. I have a feeling my “whys” are similar to most that show up in shorts, spandex run tights, tank tops and run hats on chilly Sunday mornings
…. I hope to see you again on Sunday, April 2nd!
I am having a good time with the Island Race Series this year. I have done four and will hopefully do two more. Or that is the plan.
I am racing, in the sense that I have a bib, and I am getting to the start line, but I have this knee thing I have to be careful of these days, and a thing called aging, so I have had to trade speed and volume for strength training in order to stay fit. It is a good trade. I am simply enjoying being around other folks who also like to race. It doesn’t really matter how fast you are, there is something about us all out there trying hard, about putting it all on the line and testing ourselves. I understand the contenders and the winners, and now I am happy in the pack. There is something that binds us all together.
I am a mother of two very active children (now adults). I raced professionally for about 30 years. I don’t think I could have chosen two less physically demanding of careers: motherhood and sport, doubling up on both for 14 of those years.
I have had my share of exhausting days, and sleepless nights, and still got up to train. I have gutted out repeat after repeat of leg burning, lung searing 400’s at the track and ridden so hard up hills for no other reason than to see how fast I could go.
One day, a few summers back, my kids were at summer camp, and I was training at the local track. I was running 1k repeats off a hard bike workout. Half way through the penultimate interval, finding my stride at 700m in, I had one of those moments, where you look at yourself from the outside. As I ran though the fatigue and discomfort, willing myself to quicken my pace, run even a little harder as the discomfort increased, I realized I was completely enjoying myself. There I was running my guts out at the track, when I could have been relaxing with a coffee and a book or even getting my nails done. I wasn’t even training for an Olympics, or a world championships, or anything remotely glorious as all that. I wasn’t suffering for the sake of hitting a pace time or besting an opponent or anything so tangible. I was 45 and out there running fast for the sake of it. I know I am not alone.
I always loved the feeling of working hard. When I am at the track, or in the trails, or on the road working mindfully and gracefully through discomfort and intensity, I am so totally in my element that I am completely happy. It’s what I know and it’s who I am. It’s like being intensely uncomfortable in my comfort zone, if such a thing exists.
When I run fast now, although I am so much slower than I was at 30, I feel just as youthful, empowered, and strong. I now have a freedom and a sense of peace with running that I couldn’t even imagine at 30. The irony is that I couldn’t have the freedom to be what I am now if I hadn’t been there first. This has nothing to do with age though. It has everything to do with accepting what I love and not fighting it.
That’s why I love these races at the Island Series. Here we all are, loving the hard work we put in, loving the training and meeting up every couple of weeks at a new venue, to toe a new start line. I love that these races exist, that people come out to test and challenge themselves, I love the nervous joking on the start line and I love the relaxed laughter after it’s all said and done.
There is no substitute for the experience of training hard and racing, and that’s the truth.
Run For Joy – Lucy Smith
The first three races of the Vancouver Island Race Series have delivered! Well run events, great courses, impressive post race snacks and lots of good vibes with the people we like to hang out with. The flatter courses have been well suited to figuring out early season pacing and fitness. Coming up, we have the Sooke 10k and the Hatley 8k, courses known more for their rolling nature. Are you prepared?
How’s your relationship with the hills in your life? Do you embrace them for the challenge or fear them for being difficult? I think hills are a great chance and opportunity to practice positive mindset and turn “hills are hard” into “I love the challenge of hills.”
Running hills is just another part of racing, and if racing well is a game, then it’s your job to come up with a great strategy for success on them. Remember that practicing a positive mindset in training and building strength on hills (with short repeats) will help you on race day.
Technical aspects of hill running
- Form is key: run with a tall relaxed posture and a slight lean into the hill.
- Strong arm swing will help drive your body up the hill.
- Look to the top of the hill to where you want to go. Use that sight line to ‘pull’ you up the hill.
- Think “quick knees,” and “quick arms” driving you up the hill, and quick feet springing off the ground behind you, with a slightly shorter stride (shorten your stride as necessary to maintain your cadence).
- Run fluidly down the hill, being as smooth as possible, with light steps that avoiding heavy pounding. Gravity is on your side so use that free speed.
- Relax the shoulders and get in good exhales on the way down.
Mental aspects of hill running
Examine your current mindset towards hills. Does it veer towards the negative? “Hills are hard,” “I am not a good hill runner.” Or do you face a rolling course knowing it’s going to be some effort, but you are determined to make it work? “I like hills. Hills are for dancing up; being great.”
- Replace negative self-talk (slow, inefficient) with positive words (quick, competent).
- Creative strong images for self. See yourself as a good hill climber.
- Create positive queues (dance, quick, light).
- Practice in training for racing success.
Previewing courses is always a good idea if you want to do your best, and knowing where the hills are really helps you prepare mentally for success. Own the particular hill or hilly sections by mastering mental and technical aspects.
- Pick the point over the crest and run over the hill, getting back into pace smoothly.
- On a hilly course, be smart about pacing, and tune into your effort a much as your watch.
Run for Joy! Lucy Smith.
Yes, I was super stoked to race the Cedar 12K, however, doing all the right things to prime myself for a great event didn’t quite pan out. It was all good except for the part about going on an airplane and catching a virus that gave my asthmatic respiratory system a real kick — ouch!
One of the beauties of leading others in physical activity is enjoying their experiences, their finish lines, their accomplishments.
Witnessing Margot cross event finish lines never gets boring.
She was apprehensive about racing the 12K because she felt she hadn’t run that distance in a long time but and this is a big but, she has accomplished long distances including a marathon on her own pace and discipline during the pandemic. Margot is strong both physically and mentally. However, “we” signed up together with the intention of making a trip out of it and now she was flying solo — there was an “out” if she wanted one.
BUT that’s not how this story ended
Margot’s first triumph — the coach goes down sick and she says, “I am doing it, I signed up for it.”
Recently, Margot shared with me her new way of thinking, “I am going to do it now while I can,” a message she was reminded about from her late father. Don’t put it off. We chatted a couple of times the day before the race and she diligently went through a short session reminding her body about how to move quickly and efficiently. During her drive up to Cedar, we spoke in length about the experience. Get comfortable, find your groove, take the first 6K and make it a comfortable tempo run. Break down the remainder in pieces focusing on 1K, and one step at a time and when you are done 9K remind yourself of how strong you feel and you only have 3K to go — easy peasy. You do that all the time.
Margot reported back and I saw it on her Strava that kilometre 10 was her strongest and fastest. She had the mental capacity at that point to think about what we discussed….she was three-quarters done. Margot finished the race crushing her goal by more than three minutes and ironically surpassing my predicted finish time for her by three seconds — yes.
I predicted her time without telling her because often we don’t realize just how strong we are.
Training for yourself is fun, challenging, rewarding and at times can be frustrating when faced with injuries and/or illness. Training someone that is full of great discipline, desire and determination is rewarding and humbling. I have great respect for those that are brave enough to get to the start line and learn from every finish line — whether it’s my body or theirs getting across it.
Thank you Margot and a big congratulations on your first ever ribbon. Yup — the icing on the cake — Margot earned a ribbon in her age category for her efforts and when she told me it was her first one ever, in my mind it turned into a huge trophy. I wish I was there to personally witness it but the pictures sure tell a lot.
The moral of this story…
Do it when you can!
For us runners, this time of year is often a time when we reflect on the races we want to do and times that we dream of running. It’s a time of open possibility and optimism, a time to explore our potential and really get after it.
The fire burns bright and the passion runs deep when we are healthy, when we are seeing progress, when everything is going well. But what about when things inevitably don’t go as we expected them to? When your new job is stressing you out, your kid is keeping you up at night, or you’ve picked up yet another injury or illness? What happens to the fiery flame of passion then?
While I have all the “freudenfreude” in the world for those who are crushing it in their running right now. My hope is that this article can reach those who’ve struggled with their running, those whose New Years resolutions are waning, or who are just going through a hard time right now. Know that you are not alone, and struggle is all part of sustainable progress in this sport we love.
Having just worked through 12 weeks of injury, here are some ways I’ve managed to keep the spark alive enough to cross train and build my way back:
1. Community. As individual of a sport running is, some of the best memories and experiences are shared with teammates and other members of the Island Race Series community. Finding ways to stay connected to the sport by cheering your teammates and being part of the community can help, even for a moment, snap out of self-focused negative rumination, and help you remember why you love this sport.
2. Temperance. As frustrating as it is to be injured, sick or have life get in the way, we can’t rush the process and force a comeback. Things take time, often much more time than we realize. Embracing the discomfort of that truth, and accepting where we are to get where we want to go, is a key skill to practice.
3. Rest. Crushing your workouts and races is awesome; but it must be replicated over and over again for long term success. Rest is the key ingredient here. Give yourself permission to ease back slowly, to take a day off if you’re really exhausted, to take that nap. Think of rest as a skill. How good can you get at resting? Can you perfect sleep hygiene? Can you embrace rest guilt-free, and let go of the need to train too soon because you may be anxious?
As we navigate injury, illness and stress, there is no magic solution. Sometimes things just suck, and that’s okay. But trust the process, reflect and learn what works for you. And if you’re at a loss, give community, temperance and rest a try. These lessons are the overlooked blessings that our running journeys can reveal!
One aspect of self awareness is the ability to be open minded. That is, to know when our perspective of a situation is based on our opinion or point of view, and to understand that there may be other ways to thinking about things. I was recently offering some advice to a friend who is pondering running the Finlayson Arm 50k. My perspective came from my opinions about training, preparation, and execution of such an event and was focussed on what practices and habits will be required for success. Another friend of his simply said “Drink a bunch of beers the night before and SEND IT!”
There have been times in my coaching life that I feel like the ‘Lucy’ from the Peanuts cartoon, dispensing advice for 5 cents. Obviously, my advice to runners always come from the perspective of what I have learned over many years. What follows then, are the most common themes of running advice I have dispensed over the years, distilled into five tips.
1. Develop positive habits
Have the courage to know when your habits are creating the same mistakes over and over and cultivate the courage to change these. Good habits work for you, and easily become the norm for your workouts.
Take care of basic details: prep logistics and being organized with gear and time.
Find and embrace opportunities to succeed. You get better at this the more you practice it.
Weather the ups and downs of training and racing. Be no nonsense about that one. Life goes up and down. It just does.
Do not entertain a change of heart when having a tough day or after a tough race. Allow time to emotionally recover from disappointment. Reflect and move on.
2. Reflect honestly
Review your races. Improve what you can and give yourself credit for what you did well.
Refine what didn’t go so well. Be honest with yourself, without judgement.
3. Take care of yourself and surround yourself with a healthy community of friends
Eat well, sleep well, and take care of your body and health. It is quite simple.
Surround yourself with likeminded positive people who lift you up. Put yourself in environments that support your dreams and passions. (Such as the Island Series and other events). In other words, spend your time well.
4. Listen to others
You never know what you may learn but be discerning as well. From what you learn, custom build the program and lifestyle that works for you.
Find a greater purpose
Give back when you can. Share the joy of your process and your achievement and celebrate others’ successes. Find opportunities to give back and accept opportunities to give back when they come. Thank the volunteers.
Run For Joy!
Recent panel from TC10K on the Island Series…
I want to begin by sharing with you that I feel participating in the Vancouver Island Race Series alongside elite-to-recreational athletes is an honour.
The truth is, my primary sport was on the ice, and shortly after retiring from show skating, I needed to channel my passion for physical activity in a new way. I fell in love with my running for many reasons, may be like some of yours; the flexibility of the 24-hour open gym — I could go anytime, the variety in the scenery and soon the opportunity to create a space for others to enjoy this common passion. The sport of running is unique. What other sport combines elite, recreational and potentially first-time participants into the same race?
Now that I am officially classified as a middle-aged athlete, I thought I would share with you my Cobble Hill 10K experience.
Right from the start line I embraced gratitude. I am so grateful to be able to be physically active in a beautiful place. A huge thank you to all the residents of Cobble Hill who welcomed us to their beautiful neighbourhood and for flattening out most of the hills ;)…!
My performance? Well, I now gauge performance by “lived experience” and no longer watch the clock, but I do anticipate with joy kilometre markers or a safety vest-wearing volunteer as I pass by, cheering me on and pointing me in the right direction. Thank you to all the organizers and the impressive group of volunteers and sisters.
Years ago, my passion for physical activity led me to create a group called Sole Sisters Victoria, and still to this day we continue to meet in groups, clinics, and strength train together. At Cobble Hill, there were five of us Sole Sisters out there on the course.
A sister’s mantra is to begin celebrating right from the start line because we all know that is the hardest place to get to. I will go as far as saying, I really enjoyed this event, pushing myself with an edge of tenacity. Now do not misinterpret that, it still hurt. However, as we all know, seeing the final arch at the line melted all the pain away and shortly after, really just simply wanted to do it all over again (maybe not right away — you know).
My post-race event routine is always to turn around and run back to find the next sister in sight. it is like participating in multiple events all on the same day as I get to celebrate their finish lines with them. It truly is an honour.
So, what did the last 72 hours involve? My recovery run on Monday was enjoyed on my stationary bike and then an upper body gym workout with lots of water throughout the day. I did a short run on Tuesday and with amusement questioned how I ever managed 10K. The legs felt heavy, but I knew a good stretch and a soak in the hot tub would rejuvenate me.
So, what is the real message that I want to share with anyone who has endured reading this to the last line? Being physically active is a lifestyle choice however you choose to live it.
The beautiful sport of running, welcomes all levels of athletes to participate in community events. It truly is inspiring.
And what is my favourite part about participating? Cheering on a fellow runner. I know they are working, just as hard as I am, despite the rank in which they finish before or after me. We are each pushing ourselves to a place of discomfort and together, it brings us comfort when we hear our name as we approach the finish line.
Thank you to the Vancouver Island Race Series for bringing us all together!
Enjoy the next race, Sunday, February 12 at the Cedar 12K
Even after 40 years of running, I spend time in every training session paying attention to my form. I do quick scans for tension — working on being relaxed through my neck and shoulders and arms, tall in my trunk, and quick and smooth in the way my legs are moving. And I am thinking about my feet tapping lightly on the ground as I run. I coach myself with process cues: short descriptive words or phrases that remind me to focus on things I can control.
If you can pay attention to being your most efficient self, and doing the best work you can do in that moment, you can also start to re-program negative and fearful thoughts into an empowered way to run and walk. For example, if your mind starts to wander to how tired you are, you can bring it back by reminding yourself of a process cue. This breaks the thought loop and helps you run better. Some of the most effective process cues work to reinforce a tall relaxed posture and good technique that promotes efficiency.
Here are some posture cues you can try out in your next training session or the at Cobble Hill 10k. If you are new to process cues, I suggest you only pick one or two for each session.
The process cues
Run tall: Imagine that a string (like on a Marionette) is attached to the top of your head and is pulling you upward. This will help you maintain an erect, but not tense posture.
Look ahead: Look to where you want to go, this will keep your chin up, and your upper body tall Look ahead to objects or points up the road. Trust your peripheral vision to sense obstacles and avoid looking down. This will help you to run taller and avoid stress on your neck and back.
Quick feet: You want to have a light touch on the ground, with a light impact. Think of your feet tapping, gliding, propelling you forward, with quick and light steps.
Relaxed arms: Have a relaxed and natural feeling to the bend to your arms. Try to avoid too much crossbody swinging. Hands should have no tension.
Relaxed shoulders: Your arms will swing more freely, and you’ll avoid upper back and neck tension.
As the hours count down to the race start, keep breathing, keep smiling (at least inside), and rest your body. Above all, if you are feeling a bit anxious, don’t berate yourself for feeling anxious. Switch your thoughts to these things you can control.
And one final pre-race calming tip for those of you still thinking about nerves: five minutes before the start, when you are waiting nervously with every other nervous and excited runner, take 4-5 full deep slow breaths in through your nose and out through your mouth.
See you out there!